GOP Education Policy in Flux

In a remarkably under-discussed development, the House GOP is moving quickly to pass a K-12 education reauthorization bill that the president has already threatened to veto (that won’t be necessary, of course, because it would be DOA in the Senate). Such attention as it is getting is primarily attributable to the protests of education groups over the radically reduced funding levels for federal education programs.

But since this effort is primarily symbolic, its main significance is as a symbol of where the GOP seems headed in education policy generally. And it’s especially noteworthy that the bill bans the U.S. Department of Education from doing anything (e.g., the Race to the Top program, which would be killed) to encourage adoption of “national standards,” including the state-initiated Common Core Standards that are teetering on the brink of implementation as conservatives around the country increasingly mobilize to stop it.

So it would appear that the steadily eroding GOP support for standards-and-accountability based public education reform has reached a tipping point. It will be interesting to see how the most important constituency supporting Common Core Standards, the business community, reacts.

This not to say that all conservatives are pleased with the House bill, which Majority Leader Eric Cantor is promoting as a personal priority. While Cantor included provisions making support for “public school choice” a universal national policy, he drew the line at taxpayer support for private schools (which was prominent in Mitt Romney’s 2012 education platform), which will not please the large constituencies in the GOP who are hostile to public education (a.k.a. “government schools”) or indeed, to all schools outside the home.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.